William Catton Branford qualified in London as a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS) in 1857 and in 1869 was appointed professor of anatomy at the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in Edinburgh. By 1876 he was professor of veterinary medicine and surgery, and had been elected an honorary Fellow of the Veterinary Medical Association of London. He came to the Cape Colony in October 1876 on a three year contract as the first Colonial Veterinary Surgeon and during his stay was the only veterinarian in the Colony.
The challenge that Branford faced in South Africa was formiddable. He was single-handedly responsible for all veterinary work in the colony and had to report on the health of its livestock, investigate mortality and its causes, provide remedies, and advise government on the prevention of stock diseases. He had to travel extensively and several of the diseases he encountered were unfamiliar to him. He submitted reports to government for 1876, 1877 and 1878, but although he was still in the Colony during most of 1879, the Annual Report of the Colonial Veterinary Surgeon for that year was signed by his successor, D. Hutcheon*. In 1877 he served on the Parliamentary Commission appointed to inquire into and report upon diseases of cattle and sheep in the colony.
Some of Branford's useful recommendations to government were that horses diagnosed as suffering from glanders should immediately be destroyed and buried, and that there should be a closed season for bird shooting to protect the Colony's bird life. He also advocated the prohibition of veld burning in the belief that it destroyed birds and reptiles and so upset the balance of nature. During 1877 he published an article titled "Voor den veeboer" (For the cattle farmer) in the local newspaper, De Zuid-Afrikaan. The article was also issued separately as a pamphlet. In May 1878 he was elected a member of the South African Philosophical Society, but his membership lapsed when he left the Cape.
In 1882 Branford was struck off the register of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons after being imprisoned for fraud. However, in 1890 he successfully appealed to regain his registration. He was maried to Ann Kitchen. Their eldest surviving son, Victor Verasis Branford, became a well-known sociologist and businessman.